Burhanuddin Rabbani salutes Northern Alliance troops at a camp in 2001. Photo source: Reuters.
The Taliban have claimed credit for today’s suicide attack in Kabul that killed Burhanuddin Rabbani, the chief of the Afghan High Peace Council and former president of Afghanistan. The suicide bomber killed Rabbani in his home and seriously wounded Masoom Stanekzai, the peace council’s secretary, after detonating an explosive device that was hidden in his turban.
“A Taliban member who went to Rabbani’s house for peace talks detonated a bomb hidden in his turban,” a statement released by the Kabul police chief’s office said, according to Reuters. The suicide bomber had not been searched by security forces prior to entering Rabbani’s home, as a sign of trust.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid identified the suicide bomber as Mohammad Masoom, and said he entered Rabbani’s home under the guise of peace talks.
“As soon as Rabbani came three steps forward to hug Mohammad Masoom, he triggered his explosive-filled jacket killing Rabbani, (another) Taliban militant Wahid Yar and four security guards present at the house,” he told Reuters.
Masoom was introduced to Rabbani by Rahmatullah Wahidyar, the Taliban’s former Deputy Minister of Refugees Affairs. Wahidyar, who is from Paktia province, reconciled with the Afghan government in the winter of 2005. The New York Times described Wahidyar as “a trusted emissary” of Rabbani. His whereabouts are currently unknown.
Kabul police and the National Directorate of Security are said to have a second suicide bomber and the Taliban’s driver in custody.
As the head of the Afghan High Peace Council, Rabbani was tasked with conducting reconciliation talks with the Taliban. While Rabbani had in the past been optimistic about the prospects for reconciliation, he is said to have soured on the process and believed the Taliban had no interest in reconciliation, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
NATO and the US are banking on reconciliation with large elements of the Taliban as well as the development of the Afghan National Security Forces as major elements of the strategy to dramatically reduce their military presence by 2014.
The assassination of Rabbani is the latest in a string of attacks that have targeted high-profile Afghan leaders. Since the beginning of spring, the Taliban have killed Ghulam Haidar Hamidi, the mayor of Kandahar; Ahmed Wali Karzai, President Karzai’s brother and an influential power broker in Kandahar; General Daud, the top police commander in the north; General Abdul Rahman Sayedkhili, the provincial chief of police for Kunduz; Jan Mohammad Khan, the former governor of Uruzgan province who had become one of Karzai’s top advisers; and Mohammad Hashim Watanwal, a parliamentarian from Uruzgan. Khan and Watanwal were killed in a suicide attack at Khan’s home in Kabul.
Rabbani’s murder also takes place just one week after a team of Taliban fighters launched an assault on the US Embassy, NATO headquarters, and several police stations in Kabul. The attack lasted for more than 20 hours.
Today’s attack is the fourth carried out by the Taliban using a bomb hidden in a turban. This is a tactic that was not used by the Taliban until this summer. On July 14, a Taliban suicide bomber detonated his headdress during a funeral ceremony for the slain half-brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, killing four people, including the ulema council leader, Maulvi Hikmatullah Hikmat, and another senior religious cleric. On July 27, a turban suicide bomber killed the mayor of Kandahar City, Ghulam Haidar Hamidi, after he exited a meeting and was speaking on his cellphone in a courtyard. And on Aug. 19, a Taliban suicide bomber with an explosive device hidden within his headdress detonated at an Afghan government center during a ceremony marking Afghanistan’s Independence Day held at the Helmand Military Corps Center. Three Afghan National Policemen were wounded in the attack.
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